We often hear from customers who have been targeted by ‘claims management’ companies offering to help get compensation for disrepair issues such as damp and mould. Similar to other ‘no win, no fee’ schemes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
These companies will often use misleading information or underhand tactics to draw customers in, take most of your compensation if you win, and leave you with large legal feels or bills to pay even if you lose.
We understand their offer may be tempting if you’re unhappy with something in your home but we wanted to share some tips to help you avoid getting caught out.
The Government is looking to change the law to crack-down on claims management practice, but until this happens, here’s what to look out for.
What are claims management companies and what is the problem with them?
We’ve all seen adverts offering ‘no win, no fee’ compensation schemes, or had a call about an accident we were in. These companies are just like that.
They encourage people in rented homes to make a claim for disrepair, whether you have a legitimate issue or not. Their motive is to get you to start a legal claim so they can sell your case onto a solicitor for profit. They’ll often tell you that you’re entitled to compensation with no fees to be paid, but this is not strictly true. If they win your case, the law firm will take their fees from any compensation paid.
There’s no limit on how much they can charge – some charge as much as 80%. Even if you lose, you could still be left with fees running into the thousands.
Please stay vigilant and make sure you fully understand the process before signing up to anything. There are better ways to resolve your issue that won’t cost you a penny.
What to do if you do have a disrepair issue
If you have a problem in your home (including damp and mould) that you’d like us to fix, please contact us first and we’ll be happy to help. Visit our repairs page to find out more about the repairs process and how to report issues 24/7.
If we don’t fully resolve things, or you’re unhappy with our service, the next stage is to raise a complaint. This is a formal process, during which you’re also able to seek the support of the Housing Ombudsman.
There are set standards that we have to work to and, if we fail to do this, there is a compensation framework that we follow. You’ll never be asked to pay anything and your complaint won’t affect your tenancy or rights. It’s in everyone’s interests that we resolve your issue quickly we will address any failings and learn from them.
What to do if you've been misled by a claims management company
If you think you’ve been misled and have instructed a claims management company to raise a claim for you, or you’ve started a claim and have changed your mind, you should seek help immediately.
The claims management company should have a formal complaints process you can follow, and you can also raise a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman.
If you have a claim open against Stonewater that you no longer want to pursue, please also let us know.
If we’re coming to do work in your home, we’ll always pre-arrange an appointment with you, either by letter, phone or text message. The only exception is when it’s an emergency, such as a flood or gas leak, where we have to act immediately.
When anyone from Stonewater or one of our contracting partners visits you, they will always identify themselves, carry official ID, and tell you the purpose of the visit. Please ask to see their ID if it’s not obviously visible.
We know it can be worrying letting someone into your home and if you’re not sure about someone, you don’t need to let them in.
If you feel unsafe or uncertain, it’s always best to check with us - you can call us on 01202 319 119 at any time and we’ll be able to help. We can always arrange another appointment if necessary.
If you’re approached by a repairs person, please remember you’re under no obligation to talk to them or let them in to your home. Don’t be afraid to check who they really are, why they’re there or how they operate – and show them the door if you’re not certain.
As fraudsters constantly think of smarter ways to fool us, it’s more important than ever to be cyber security savvy to stay safe online.
The easiest way to prevent hackers from accessing your accounts is to create strong, unique passwords. Choosing complex passwords makes it hard for hackers to break in using their software while using separate ones for all online accounts could save you a lot of hassle should one of them get broken into.
We should only use secure websites – ones that start with “https”. Using a website that doesn’t have the right security could mean that your information is unsafe and could be accessed by other people.
Visit the Customer hubb for more information on staying safe online. See how to create secure passwords and learn more about cyber security.
You don’t need to be out of pocket to get help.
If you need to talk to someone at Stonewater, you can call us on 01202 319 119.
There are lots of other organisations that can help if you think you’ve been targeted or misled into signing up for something that wasn’t clear or turns out to be a scam.
- Citizens Advice
Citizens Advice offers free, confidential advice on consumer rights, support witnesses in courts, and offer guidance to those who want to report a scam. They also have clear guide on social housing repairsand complaints. Visit the website or call them on 0800 144 8848.
- Action Fraud
This is the UK’s national centre for fraud, where you can report if you’ve been a victim of scammers. Visit the website or call them on 0300 123 2040.
- Think Jessica
This is a great website that has lots of information about how to spot dubious schemes and scammers who target people in their homes. Visit the website.
- Why Me?
Why Me? is a ‘restorative justice’ charity that helps victims of crime to get closure on their experience, as well as help those who commit crimes to understand. Visit the website.